Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Artist Interview: Jennifer Johnson

We have three new webstore items for CCA! They are all commissioned stickers by artists who graciously gave their time and talent to make custom artwork for an artist-series collection. One of the new stickers you can order is this heart representing the strong bonds we share with our CCA Family.

The "We are Family" design, by Jennifer Johnson, encompasses our slogan that Beyond the Face is A Heart. Check out our exclusive interview below to learn more about her work and how she chose to create such a cool piece for CCA Kids.




Artist Interview, Jennifer Johnson


Jennifer with her Mom, Carolyn, and Cher

CCA: Where are you from? 
JJ:  Midland, Texas

CCA: When did you first start drawing and designing? 
JJ:  I first started drawing at age two. My mother bought me art materials to keep me busy during my hospital stays and rest periods at home. My decision to become a visual artist became clearer when I was seven years old, after I submitted artwork for a children's Christmas card design competition. I won first and second place!

CCA: When did you realize you wanted to pursue art as a career and how’d you go about it? 
JJ:  I've always known I wanted to be an artist – even before I was old enough to understand all that entailed. I’m primarily self-taught, with the exception of a few art classes in high school. Drawing portraits is what I enjoy most; however, it’s very difficult to make a living as a traditional artist.
As a result, I developed skills and an appreciation for graphic design and visual communications. I don't have a graphic design degree, but I spent years studying the works of artists I admire, reading books on design techniques and tools, and watching videos. In 2003, I began my professional career as a graphic designer. Since then, I have achieved many accomplishments with my creative life and business. Besides my day job at Century Graphics & Sign, I currently work as a freelance artist designing band merchandise for Essential Artist Services, a Nashville-based merchandise company that works with major names in the Music, Non-profit, Academic, and Business worlds. I’ve worked for clients including Rachel Platten, Green River Ordinance, Lauren Daigle, I Am They, So You Think You Can Dance, Harley Davidson, and Taylor Swift. To go to a concert and see your design worn by the artist or crowd is an experience that can only be described as euphoric!
Jennifer with Rachel Platten

CCA: What was it like for you growing up? What has been your experience with having a facial difference?
JJ:  Growing up with a facial difference wasn't always easy, but I was blessed with a loving family that supported me, and with friends who accepted me for me. Junior high and high school was a tough time for me. I was bullied terribly in 9th grade by some boys at my school. They stole my lunch and spit it back in my backpack, held a lighter to my hair on the school bus, and pulled a chair out from under me that resulted in fractured ribs. It was a painful time for me, but I am much stronger for the experience. I firmly believe that those experiences inspired me to be brave, to know the value in myself, to be kind to others and to stand strong in my beliefs. I think, in hindsight, growing up with a facial difference was a positive thing for me. It's made me who I am today, and I'm proud of who I've become.

CCA: What do you wish others knew about people with facial and other physical differences? 
JJ:  I wish others had a better understanding of the positive aspects of living with physical differences. Unfortunately, our society remains very appearance conscious. Although there can be serious stresses connected with having a facial difference in today's society, we can develop positive images of ourselves and lead full, rewarding lives.

Jennifer and her Mom, Carolyn, with Train
CCA: What do you do when you get discouraged? How do you combat fear and/or creative blocks?
JJ:  Discouragement and creative burnout happens to every artist sooner or later. When I’m feeling
discouraged, I count my blessings. I make a conscious effort to remember what’s good and going well in my life, it helps put things into perspective. I also create some downtime for myself. It gives me the opportunity to take a deep breath, let my imagination wander, and explore the world around me. Many of my successes came after periods of discouragement and failure. Discouragement is just a temporary obstacle.

Martina McBride with Jennifer & Carolyn
CCA: What’s your design process like? How long does it take to go from idea to finished illustration? JJ:  When drawing portraits, I always start with the eyes. Once I get the eyes right, the rest fits into place. The drawing process can take a few hours or even days, depending on what I want to accomplish. I’m almost never completely satisfied with the result, so I’m not a good judge of my work.

Graphic design creations tend to be more strategically driven. The process I follow is pretty similar to that of many other designers, and with  simple  goal:  to  ensure  the  client  get  the  highest  quality of work that meets the predetermined objectives.

CCA: You work a lot with musicians. Why do you think you connect with them? 
JJ:  I’m intrigued by the human face. It reveals so much about a person: their story lies in all the little details in their facial features. That fascination and my love of music has led me to create hundreds of portraits. When I create a portrait, it’s with sincere appreciation for all that their music has brought into my life.

CCA: What’s your favorite design you’ve done? 
JJ:  One of my favorite portraits I created was of Rachel Platten. I’ve been a fan for years and had to opportunity to see her in concert in Dallas last September. The night before the show, I posted my painting on social media hoping she or someone on her team would see it. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to find a personal invite to meet her backstage after her set! Rachel actually cried when I presented it to her. Being able to move someone with my art is the greatest compliment an artist can ever hope to receive. It absolutely made my night!


CCA: What inspires you? 
JJ:  Music is definitely an important part of the creative process for me. It’s rare for me to work on a project without music playing in the background.

I'm a big fan of “the little things." The smallest thing can make the biggest impact. You can change someone's entire day with a smile. I find inspiration in these little moments.

People inspire me more than anything else! My family and friends inspire me daily to be the best possible version of myself and support me in anything I choose to do.

CCA: What advice do you have for adults with physical differences when they are looking for jobs and marketing themselves? 
JJ:  Don’t let hardships and adversities keep you from reaching your goals and dreams. Embrace who you are, follow your dreams, and never give up... that's when you’ll start to shine.

CCA: What does a day in your life look like? 
JJ:  Every day is different. Today I might work on a corporate logo design, tomorrow a vehicle wrap, and the next a number of t-shirt designs. There’s never a dull moment. There are always new trends, new tools, new technologies, new theories, new sources of inspiration a creative mind never   stops learning.

CCA: What does kindness mean to you? 
JJ:  Kindness means being kind to yourself as well as others. Your sense of value and worth depend not on how you compare to others, but on the conviction that everyone is human and worthy of compassion.

CCA: What’s your motto? 
JJ:  I have a tattoo that says "Today I’ll create something beautiful." It reminds me to be inspired and inspire others.


CCA: Why did you agree to help out CCA? 
JJ:  I’ve been involved with CCA since the beginning. I can't think of better way to use my talent than to help others!



CCA: Five things on your list of things to do before you die?
JJ: 
  1. Find true love
  2. See a live concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater 
  3. Travel to Europe
  4. Attend the Grammys
  5. Make a difference, whether big or small.
JJ: Also, a fun fact: The first celebrity portrait I ever did was of Cher when I was 10 years old!


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